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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Exactly 19 years ago today, a C-130 went down over the waters of Kuwait. I had just taken on the duties as a Mortuary officer in support of operation Desert Storm and a plane crash was everyone's worst nightmare. Little did I know that my own worst nightmare was about to happen. That C-130 was down over the water with 14 men on board and no chance for a search and rescue because it was down in enemy territory. Even worse for me, the plane was from Hurlburt AFB, Fl, a mere 5 miles from where I lived. My husband had been stationed at Hurlburt before leaving the Air Force and we still lived nearby. I thought," OH, my God, I might know someone on that plane. They might go to my church. I might know people in the squadron." As we 10 mortuary officers were being briefed about our duties. I just broke down into tears. I didn't want to do this . I didn't want to be there. One of the other Majors took me to the snack bar where I sat with tears streaming down my face. He said, "Carol you have to get control of yourself." And I just said I dont' want to. I didn't care how many people saw me or how much of a spectacle I was making. I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing. It was just too close to home for me. Another plane from another base would have been different but this one...... Eventually I pulled myself together and went back to the mortuary unit where I could hear others whispering, is she all right?

In this particular instance, as a mortuary officer, we are responsible for helping the families with their funeral arrangements. By the time we talk to the families, they have already been notified about the situation. In this case, the airmen were listed as missing in action as there was no search that could be conducted. We were each given 2 or 3 families to work with and I was given 2 single airmen whose families lived out of state and another airmen whose wife lived in my hometown. The awful part to me was that I was forever connected to these families and their situation for the rest of my life. I didn't want anyone to know that I lived there and that I owned a successful business. The only way I could handle it was to completely divorce myself from anything personal and just be a military officer. I had to squash my own feelings and just perform my duties as required. Years later that would come back to haunt me.
Until another day.
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